Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Palmer, Fernandez, and the American Dream

Over this tragic past weekend, the sports world lost two giant figures who, in different ways, represent extraordinary success stories of the American Dream.

The legendary Arnold Palmer passed away at 87 after an impossibly full life as one of the greatest icons in any sport, not only golf. In addition to being one of golf’s most accomplished champions, he earned a reputation as a class act, as admired and well-liked for his down-to-earth, gentlemanly demeanor as for his golfing skill. Palmer was noted, for example, for never refusing a fan his autograph nor asking to be paid for it.

I’m not a golfer but my late father was on the course nearly every weekend. He was an enormous fan of “Arnie,” as he and countless others called him – as if they were buddies, because Arnie was so personable and accessible that his millions of followers – “Arnie’s Army” – viewed him as a friend.

Two stories serve to capture Arnie’s kindness and humility, qualities too often overlooked and underappreciated in our era of oftentimes narcissistic and self-aggrandizing superstars.

In 2014 an avid, 18-year-old golfer and local tournament winner named Nate Marcoulier received a graduation gift from his older brother Adam. It was a letter from Arnold Palmer, whom Adam had written in the hope that the golfing icon would have some life advice for Nate. Both brothers were stunned when Palmer replied, congratulating Nate on his golf victories and telling him he would find life “enjoyable and fulfilling” if he followed this advice: 

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Stop Guilt-Tripping Boys About Their ‘Toxic Masculinity’

Last week a proud feminist single mom posted a piece in The Washington Post in which she shamed her 16- and 18-year-old sons for not taking a more proactive stand to combat rape and misogyny. For anyone who needs a guide on How Not to Turn Your Children Into the Social Justice Warriors You Desperately Want Them to Be, “My Teen Boys Are Blind to Rape Culture” is it.

Jody Allard is a Seattle-based writer on issues related to feminism, parenting, and social justice, who describes herself as a happily single mother of seven. In previous articles she has had no compunction about sharing very personal experiences such as surviving rape, her self-loathing over a malformed hand, three failed marriages, a son’s suicidal depression, and a husband’s emotionally lacerating infidelity. She also has no compunction about publicly embarrassing her sons by declaring them “part of the problem” of rape culture and by labeling at least one of them a “rape apologist” over his reasonable belief that accused rapists should be considered innocent until proven guilty.

In her most recent WaPo confessional, Ms. Allard is disturbed and frustrated that her two teen sons aren’t more active allies with her against what she insists is our rape culture. As I’ve written elsewhere, America doesn’t have a rape culture; we have a culture in which rape is considered a heinous crime and those convicted of it – and sometimes those merely accused of it – are viewed as monsters. Does this mean that rape is uncommon or that our legal system’s handling of such cases isn’t sometimes problematic? Not at all. Does this mean that our pop culture isn’t hyper-sexualized or that it doesn’t objectify women? Not at all. But if you want to see a rape culture, travel to rural areas in Afghanistan or Iran or India. There is no such equivalent here.

Jody Allard’s sons agree. They roll their eyes when she raises issues of rape, consent, and sexism at the dinner table. “There’s no such thing as rape culture,” one tells her. “You say everything is about rape culture or sexism.” Their mother’s sense of betrayal is palpable:

Men, Your Manliness is Macro-Aggressing the Earth

Just when you think the intellectual class has run out of ways to disparage and diminish masculinity, The Washington Post sank to a new nadir this week with a blog post rather comically titled, “Your manliness could be hurting the planet.” It reports on a study which concludes that men might be avoiding environmentally beneficial behavior because they associate it with femininity, which makes them insecure about their “gender identity.” So men who are reluctant to change their macho ways and embrace their feminine side are putting humankind and the planet at greater risk.

WaPo begins by pointing out that women generally are more environmentally conscious than men. They use less fuel and energy, eat less meat, and are more concerned about climate change. In fact, a 2011 survey found that 82 percent of adults, both men and women, believe “going green” is more ladylike than manly. Now University of Notre Dame business professor James Wilkie and his team have published a study which asserts that the male resistance to being more environmentally gung-ho may stem from this widely-held impression that green consciousness is a feminine thing. “As a result of this stereotype,” Wilkie concludes, “men may be motivated to avoid or even oppose green behaviors in order to safeguard their gender identity.”

The study shows, for example, that items designed to protect the planet, like reusable bags or “green” batteries, are perceived to be less manly than the alternatives. When presented with two versions of the same “green” car, men preferred the model called “Protection” to the “Eco-friendly” one. They even responded more favorably to environmental nonprofits with “masculine” logos – i.e., with darker colors and bold fonts —than to logos that displayed brighter tones and “frilly” letters.

“Stereotypical feminine behavior and attitudes are more in parallel with taking care of the environment,” Wilkie wrote. “Male traits tend to conflict with this idea of maintaining a nice environment for other people.” He blames the stereotype of environmentalists as tree-hugging hippies, scorned by more rugged men. He also noted that men face greater peer pressure for stepping outside gender norms. “If a man at a bar were to order a girlie drink, he might get some looks,” Wilkie said. “He might get some snickers. He might even get into a fight.” (He neglects to mention that a man who orders a girlie drink is more likely to get those looks and snickers from the women at the bar) On the other hand, if a woman orders a whiskey on the rocks, “some people might even be impressed.”